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Local Sports

Long swings into Monmouth golf record book

NEWTON — Going from the “little girl who had to do what my big sister did” to the record-holder at Monmouth (Ill.) College as a sophomore, Hannah Long still has plenty of goals for her golf game.

“Your golf game is never perfect. You can always see something you need to work on or you could’ve done better,” Long said. “Even this fall, when I shot the 77 to set the record, I could have done better. I had a double-bogey out there.”

Long, who was a golfer and swimmer for Newton Senior High School, has had back-to-back record-breaking seasons for the Monmouth College women’s golf team. As a freshman, she became the first Fighting Scots’ women’s player to shoot under 80 in an 18-hole tournament.

Long broke the Scots’ mark of 80 in her own backyard, so to speak. Monmouth was playing in the Grinnell College Invitational on Sept. 29, 2012. Long’s family and former high school coach, NHS girls’ head coach Scott Enyart, were on hand to see her establish the new mark of 79.

“It was exciting for me. One reason was it was the first time I had ever shot in the 70s, which was a goal of mine to do. Then, I had added wrong. I told my parents what I needed on the final hole to set the mark and I thought I had an 80,” Long said.

“The girl who had my score said it was a 79 so we re-counted and I had a 79. My family had already headed to the clubhouse. Coach Enyart being there was special, also.”

Coming back this season, Long used what she learned over the summer playing golf every day at Pinehurst Golf Course in North Carolina. She spent two summers during her high school years at the Pinehurst Junior Golf Academy. Last summer and again this coming summer, Long is working at the academy as a counselor.

“Just being able to play golf every day was important to my progression as a golfer. My goals were to work on my short game — my putting needed work. I wanted to go without a 3-putt in a tournament. I almost did that this year. I had one tournament round with a 3-putt,” Long said.

Another goal for Long was to shoot a 75. She came up short on that but lowered the MC  women’s 18-hole score. Playing in the Benedictine Invitational in Lisle, Ill., Long placed second in a field of 66 golfers with a Monmouth record of 77. She led the Scots to a first-place team finish in that tournament.

That performance earned Long her second-straight Midwest Conference Performer of the Week award in September. The week before, Long averaged 81.6 during Monmouth’s three-day stretch, playing at three different tournaments in a three-day stretch. 

Long opened the 54-hole stretch with an 80 to tie for second place, one stroke out of the lead and a stroke off her own Monmouth school record, at the Augustana Fall Classic. Her effort led the Scots to a fifth-place finish with a season-low 343. She followed that performance with an 83 at the Knox Invitational and wrapped up the weekend with an 82 at the Fighting Scot Invitational, tying for seventh.

Long led the Scots into the 2013 Midwest Conference Championships at Aldeen Golf Course in Rockford, Ill., Oct. 4-6. Long said she was tied for first after the first two days of competition with fellow sophomore Mackenzie Barker of Illinois College.

“The only way to get to the NCAA Division III tournament is as a team. The conference championship team goes to the national tournament. Rarely does an individual get a bid to the national tournament in the spring,” Long said. “We were in the team competition early, but finished fourth.”

The Newton native began golfing because her older sister, Rachel, began playing. Long’s sister was 12 and she was 8. She said she took lessons and was in the junior golf program at the Newton County Club.

When she reached high school, Long played golf, was on the swim team, ran track her freshman and sophomore years, played basketball as a freshman and was a cheerleader. Long said she played varsity golf all four years for Newton and was a state qualifier three years on the swim team.

“After my freshman year, I decided I was going to take golf pretty seriously. I played a lot during the summer going into my sophomore season. We were members of the country club then and I played every day,” Long said. “I saw a drop in my average that year.”

The next summer, Long went to her first golf camp at Pinehurst, N.C. She said, over the two summers she attended the camp, there were a lot of changes to her swing and positive improvements to her golf game.

“I saw a big drop again in my average. My senior year, the regional tournament didn’t go  quite as planned, so I never played a state tournament in high school,” Long said.

She said she knew she wanted to participate in both golf and swimming at the college level. Long concentrated on looking at NCAA Division III level colleges, which would allow her to pursue both sports but no athletic scholarships.

Long landed at Monmouth as a business major. She has academic scholarships to help pay for her education.

Long is on the Monmouth women’s swim team and in season right now. She said she was a week behind her teammates because her swim coach won’t let her in the pool until she was done competing in the conference golf tournament.

“In high school, I was considered a better swimmer than golfer, but in college, I’m a better  golfer. Swimming is really good for my distance. I build a lot of muscles in swimming that I never would in golf,” Long said. “It helps my upper body strength for my swing plus my legs. You have to be in shape to walk 18 holes of golf and be able to compete right to the last hole.”

Long said the intensity of college golf has really brought out her competitiveness in the sport.

“I just have a different drive in golf than I’ve ever had in any other sport. Golf is a passion of mine,” Long said. “When I climb out of the pool following a race, I look at my time and say I swam my hardest. When I come off the golf course, I know I can do better, always telling myself I could have done this differently or that shot better.”

Long said consistency in play was another goal of hers coming into her sophomore season. The golf season is a split season with the major competition — conference championship and national qualifying — in the fall and a lighter schedule in the spring.

“As a freshman, my game was all over the place. I’d have low scores then high scores. I was better this fall. I shot in the low 80s consistently, but I want to do better,” she said with a smile.

Last summer, Long played in the North-South Amateur at Pinehurst against a field of NCAA Division I golfers. Her father, Jim Long, went out to be her caddy for the five-day event. She said she played the first two days and didn’t make the cut for the final rounds.

“But what an experience. I was the only Division III golfer in the tournament. I wanted to see what I could do and step my game up. I watched how those players approached shots and their mental game,” she said.

Mental game. Long said that is the part of her game she’ll be working on most to get ready for next fall.

“The last two years, I’ve played poorly on the final day of the conference tournament. I know my golf game was prepared for that day because I played well in the first two days. I want a conference title. I want to win it next year and the next year. The girl who I was second to this year is also a sophomore, so we’ll be battling out the next two years. I really enjoy playing golf with her, but I want to win,” Long said.

Off the golf course and out of the pool, Long is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She is the sorority house manager and will take over as its treasurer in January.   Long said she has been enjoying all the student activities at the small college. She is a business and pre-law major at Monmouth.

“I like doing homework. It’s relaxing for me. I really enjoy writing papers,” Long said. “I graduated with honors from Newton. I learned a lot from high school and Newton did a really good job of preparing me for college.”

Long was excited to tell her parents, Jim and Sherri Long, on Christmas Eve that she was a 4.00 student this past semester at Monmouth.

“I know I’m going to law school after Monmouth. What I do with golf will depend on where I go and what is around me,” Long said. “Right, now, I know what I want. The better I get in golf, the more competitive I become. This is a team sport for us at Monmouth and we each have individual goals to help the team.

“On the golf course, I don’t think about anything else. If I had a bad day in something else, the golf course helps clear it out. I focus on golf.”

Long focuses on golf on the course and academics in the classroom. The former NHS student-athlete is a solid Monmouth College student-athlete.

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